Learning-dependent plasticity of the barrel cortex is impaired by restricting GABA-ergic transmission

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Experience-induced plastic changes in the cerebral cortex are accompanied by alterations in excitatory and inhibitory transmission. Increased excitatory drive, necessary for plasticity, precedes the occurrence of plastic change, while decreased inhibitory signaling often facilitates plasticity. However, an increase of inhibitory interactions was noted in some instances of experience-dependent changes. We previously reported an increase in the number of inhibitory markers in the barrel cortex of mice after fear conditioning engaging vibrissae, observed concurrently with enlargement of the cortical representational area of the row of vibrissae receiving conditioned stimulus (CS). We also observed that an increase of GABA level accompanied the conditioning. Here, to find whether unaltered GABAergic signaling is necessary for learning-dependent rewiring in the murine barrel cortex, we locally decreased GABA production in the barrel cortex or reduced transmission through GABAA receptors (GABAARs) at the time of the conditioning. Injections of 3-mercaptopropionic acid (3-MPA), an inhibitor of glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD), into the barrel cortex prevented learninginduced enlargement of the conditioned vibrissae representation. A similar effect was observed after injection of gabazine, an antagonist of GABAARs. At the behavioral level, consistent conditioned response (cessation of head movements in response to CS) was impaired. These results show that appropriate functioning of the GABAergic system is required for both manifestation of functional cortical representation plasticity and for the development of a conditioned response.




Posluszny, A., Liguz-Lecznar, M., Turzynska, D., Zakrzewska, R., Bielecki, M., & Kossut, M. (2015). Learning-dependent plasticity of the barrel cortex is impaired by restricting GABA-ergic transmission. PLoS ONE, 10(12). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0144415

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